Coral reefs around the world have been slowly dying due to the effects of climate change and rising sea temperatures, as well as growing local pressures such as pollution, fishing practices, and physical harm.
However, the northern Red Sea between Africa and Asia has acted as a “thermal refugia” that protect marine life from this imminent destruction, showing resistance to rising temperatures and stress induced by global warming, according to scientists. The phenomenon has piqued the interest of regional researchers – led by Israel – who are partnering for a unique trans-national collaboration on the study, monitoring, and protection of the Red Sea coral reef ecosystems.
The research partnership is the brainchild of Professor Maoz Fine, a marine biologist from the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University. Dubbed the Red Sea Transnational Research Center, it will include partners from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, and Djibouti. Since Israel does not have formal ties with a majority of these countries – save Jordan and Egypt with which it has peace treaties – the center will be led by Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Bar-Ilan University said in a statement.
[This article was originally published by NoCamels.com]
In March, the Swiss foreign minister inaugurated the center in Bern surrounded by diplomats and researchers from throughout the region. Prof. Fine believes that the idea of collaboration between these historically adverse nations through science is what motivated the Swiss government to participate, highlighting the idea of “diplomacy for science, and science for diplomacy,” he tells NoCamels.
“Reefs recognize no borders and are affected by any neighboring country. So, we have to take action and coordinate in order to solve the complex geopolitical situation in the region,” he says in a phone interview.
The center will unite scientists from a wide range of disciplines including oceanography, biology, genetics, ecology, geology, nature conservancy, civil and environmental engineering, the university said, and will make direct use of already existing research platforms such as the Inter-University Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat and the Jordanian Marine Station in the Gulf of Aqaba. New monitoring stations will also be created.